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Wednesday, May 29, 2019


My best friend once asked if I would like to join her to go to Karimunjawa. I actually had no idea where it was and how to get there but I just said yes, simply because I trust my friend and I always love travelling, too! True enough, the trip turned out well. Since everything had been planned by my friend, all I had to do was just to meet them up in Jakarta.

There were five of us and we took an overnight bus (about eight hours) to Jepara. Picked up by a friend early in the morning to her place to freshen up, we rested for a couple of hours before boarding on the ship to Karimunjawa. It was my first experience to get on a big ship which carried all sorts of things, from chicken, vegetables, vehicles and people! You mention it, they have it!

Everybody was rushing to get into the ship as it was free seating. By the time we got there, there were no more comfortable seats inside so we just had to make do with the empty space on the deck. It was quite comfortable there and I was wondering why people were rushing to get inside when it was so comfy outside. But slowly, it got crowded as well. 

We were playing cards, playing mana suka (a traditional game from childhood) and sharing stories while we kept looking at our watch. After some time, as we lost in thought, we stared at people unintentionally and at some point we started listening to people's conversation, too, haha.

On the ship.

Time passed super slowly and by the time it reached noon, we knew why people did not want to be on the deck. It was so freaking hot under the sun! Despite having a little breeze, it did not make us feel less warm. But gosh, we were lucky, the crew happened to have an enormous canvas shelter that was set up from one corner to another, so we were covered for the last couple of hours. Well, if you are wondering if it made us more comfortable, the answer is a little tiny bit. We were barely able to move as there were too many people in a six-hour journey!

We were so happy to get onshore. People were very friendly and we could feel that the kampong spirit was still very strong in this place. It just felt awesome to be away from the busy city life for a while.


In the evening at 7pm, the electricity was out so the whole place went dark. We were just overwhelmed with the beautiful night view that left us no time to complain. We decided to walk to the Alun-alun afterward (about 20 minutes walk through the small path and with the sounds of nature surrounded you). Once we got there, it was a crowded food market. So there we were, spending our night by trying out different street food. It was amazing, just sitting on used paper on the ground and enjoying our food together with the fellow tourists and villagers. 

For the rest of the days we had in Karimunjawa, we spent the time doing island-hopping, relaxing on the beach, playing in the clear water by the shore, snorkelling, swimming with the shark in the Shark Farm and enjoying each other companies.

The beach.

Can you spot the sharks?

We took a different route on our way home. Three hours on the ship and we paid extra money to have the access to the ship crew's room. It had four small beds for us to rest. We eventually landed in Semarang, a shorter and much more enjoyable journey.

Overall, it was a pleasant trip and Karimunjawa is by far one of my favourite beaches because it was not overcrowded yet. Thanks to my best friend whom had included me in this trip. I'm definitely grateful!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Time To Say Goodbye

Last month, when I first read the news about BBM's plan to shut down its consumer service, it didn't meant a thing to me probably because I hadn't used it for the longest time. BBM is still on my phone simply because I am using a BlackBerry and the mobile app came pre-installed on it. Function-wise, it had been replaced by WhatsApp since few years ago. Little did I know that in the night of May 22, the status quo would be shaken up for one last time.

For those of you who aren't aware of it, 22/05/19 was an ugly day in the history of Indonesia. As losers were rioting, fake news was rampant, too! In order to curb this, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook were blocked by the Government of Indonesia. The result was random and you couldn't be really sure if your message was delivered or not. In the midst of the confusion, nobody seemed to be able to contact my brother via any means of communication, including the conventional landline phone, so I tried my luck using BBM. I fired two messages, then observed how the ✔ sign and alphabet D appeared by the end of each line. Suddenly D was replaced by R and the whole thing turned into blue colour.

That only meant that my brother was reading the messages! I called him immediately using BBM and he picked up. It was a just short conversation to make sure that he was okay, but after the call, I ended up staring at the BBM gratefully. I didn't intend to do that. It just happened spontaneously. Then, as it dawned on me that the app is shutting down, all the good old memories came flooding back.

It might be forgotten now, but roughly a decade ago, just like the BlackBerry itself, BBM was the most revolutionary messaging service. When Yahoo! Messenger, MSN and Google Talk were all desk-bound, BBM was the one thing that allowed us to be mobile while staying connected. Yes, the other three would eventually released their own mobile apps, too, but they were too late by then. BBM ruled them all! For many Indonesians, BlackBerry was the right phone and BBM was the way to communicate.

(Picture is owned by

I was a late joiner, but once I converted from Sony Ericsson to become a BlackBerry user, I was hooked. The signature sound of BBM notification was constantly tempting me. And the blinking red light, it was so irresistible that I just had to check the messages at all costs! That's how addictive BBM was during its heyday. It did everything a phone user needed then, from simple chatting to selling bags and other stuff. Long before people were updating status on Facebook, the BBM status update was what we closely monitored back then!

Then came WhatsApp, an app based on phone number. It was rather unusual at that time, when people were still asking what your PIN was. But while BBM was exclusive to BlackBerry devices, WhatsApp was found on any platforms. That's when it gained traction while BBM started to lose its footing. I was clinging dearly to BBM, but I couldn't help feeling that it was a losing battle. When I first noticed that the WhatsApp messages from me suddenly had the double ✔ sign and they turned blue when the recipient read them, I realised that WhatsApp was finally catching up.

From there onwards, whatever that BBM did, even when it decided to become platform agnostic, didn't matter anymore. By the time WhatsApp could tell who in the chat group had read my messages, I knew it had long surpassed BBM. I just had to accept that the BBM days were numbered. Eventually BBM became irrelevant and I stopped using it, too. Apart from occasional messages that were sent by Parno from his BlackBerry Z30, it's safe to say that my BBM had died a quiet death.

And it stayed like that until that fateful night. BBM was once again the little application that worked when everything else failed, just like how it used to be. The unexpected encore felt bittersweet, really. Despite its flaws, BBM was still one of the most beautiful stories ever written in the past ten years of my life. It's coming to an end now. Thanks for all the good memories, BBM! Time to say goodbye...

Chilling out with BBM and Tiger Beer in Clementi. 
Photo was taken by Fendy Lee. 

Waktunya Untuk Berpisah

Bulan lalu, ketika saya membaca tentang rencana BBM untuk mengakhiri layanannya, saya tidak terlalu memikirkannya karena saya sudah lama tidak menggunakan BBM. Satu-satunya alasan kenapa aplikasi ini masih berada di telepon genggam saya adalah karena saya menggunakan BlackBerry dan BBM sudah langsung tersedia. Bicara soal fungsi, WhatsApp sudah menggantikan peran BBM sejak beberapa tahun silam. Siapa sangka pada tanggal 22 Mei malam, BBM terbukti berguna untuk satu kali terakhir? 

Anda tahu apa yang terjadi pada tanggal tersebut. Selagi para pecundang membuat rusuh, berita palsu pun merajalela. Sebagai upaya untuk meredam kekacauan, Pemerintah Indonesia memblokir WhatsApp, Instagram dan Facebook untuk sementara waktu. Banyak kebingungan yang terjadi karena pesan dan telepon dari WhatsApp sepertinya tidak berhasil mencapai orang yang hendak kita tuju. Saat itu pihak keluarga juga berusaha untuk menghubungi adik saya, akan tetapi jangankan WhatsApp, telepon rumah pun tidak diangkat. Saya lantas terpikir untuk mencoba BBM. Setelah saya kirimkan dua pesan, saya perhatikan bahwa tanda ✔ pun muncul dan ada huruf D di sampingnya. Tak lama setelah itu, huruf D berubah menjadi R dan berganti warna menjadi biru. 

Itu berarti adik saya membaca BBM-nya! Saya langsung meneleponnya lewat BBM. Percakapan kami singkat saja, tapi setelah selesai berbincang, tanpa sadar saya menatap BBM dengan rasa syukur. Hal itu terjadi secara spontan. Kemudian, ketika saya teringat dengan berita yang saya baca bulan lalu, semua kenangan manis tentang BBM pun bagaikan berputar kembali. 

Mungkin banyak yang tidak ingat lagi sekarang, namun kira-kira 10 tahun yang lalu, sepertinya halnya BlackBerry, BBM juga merupakan aplikasi chatting yang paling revolusioner. Tatkala Yahoo! Messenger, MSN dan Google Talk hanya bisa digunakan komputer, BBM adalah satu-satunya sarana yang memungkinkan kita untuk mengirimkan pesan selagi kita tidak berada di meja komputer. Ya, tiga aplikasi ternama itu akhirnya mengeluarkan aplikasi versi telepon genggam juga, tapi sudah terlambat. Banyak yang sudah beralih ke BBM. Bagi sebagian besar orang Indonesia, BlackBerry adalah telepon genggam yang paling populer dan BBM adalah bagian dari cara kita berkomunikasi dalam kehidupan sehari-hari.

PIN BBM yang terakhir.

Saya boleh dikatakan terlambat bergabung, tapi begitu saya berpindah dari Sony Ericsson ke BlackBerry, saya langsung menjadi pengguna berat. Suara notifikasi BBM yang khas senantiasa menggoda konsentrasi saya. Kedap-kedip lampu LED merah yang menandakan pesan masuk sungguh sulit untuk diabaikan. BBM bagaikan candu di masa jayanya. Aplikasi ini adalah memiliki semua fitur yang dibutuhkan oleh para pemakainya pada saat itu, mulai dari perannya yang efektif dalam menggantikan SMS sampai gambar profil yang bisa dipakai untuk berjualan tas. Jauh sebelum orang mulai menulis status di Facebook, status terbaru di BBM adalah apa yang sering kita pantau di zaman tersebut. 

Kemudian muncullah WhatsApp, sebuah aplikasi yang berbasis nomor telepon genggam di era dimana semua masih orang bertanya, apa PIN anda. Saat itu BBM adalah aplikasi eksklusif yang hanya ada di BlackBerry, sedangkan WhatsApp bisa ditemukan di semua platform. Karena inilah WhatsApp mulai merambah sedangkan BBM mulai goyah posisinya. Saya masih tetap mengandalkan BBM, tapi ada rasa cemas bahwa BBM sepertinya mulai kalah bersaing. Ketika saya melihat bahwa WhatsApp mulai menampilkan tanda ✔ ganda yang berubah menjadi biru ketika penerima membaca pesan yang saya kirim, saya menyadari bahwa WhatsApp akhirnya memiliki kemampuan yang setara dengan BBM. 

Semenjak itu, apa pun inovasi yang dilakukan BBM, bahkan ketika BBM akhirnya memutuskan untuk beredar di Android dan iOS, tidak lagi membuat perubahan yang berarti. Saat WhatsApp memiliki fitur dimana kita bisa mengetahui siapa saja anggota grup yang telah membaca pesan kita, saya tahu bahwa aplikasi ini telah jauh melampaui BBM. Saya akhirnya menerima bahwa hari-hari BBM telah berakhir. Lambat-laun saya pun berhenti menggunakan BBM. Kecuali untuk membaca pesan dari Parno yang terkadang dikirimkannya lewat BlackBerry Z30, saya hampir tidak pernah lagi menggunakan BBM.  

Dan ini berlangsung sampai pada tanggal 22 Mei malam. Sekali lagi BBM menjadi apa yang pernah saya kenal suatu ketika di masa silam: sebuah aplikasi yang tepat guna di kala yang lainnya gagal. Ada rasa senang bercampur sedih sewaktu saya usai menggunakan BBM. Pada akhirnya, terlepas dari berbagai kekurangan dan strategi yang salah, BBM adalah sebuah cerita yang indah selama sepuluh tahun terakhir di dalam kehidupan saya. Sekarang semuanya akan berakhir. Terima kasih untuk masa-masa yang menyenangkan, BBM. Waktunya untuk berpisah...

BBM-an setelah makan pagi di Lengkong Tiga. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Culinary Tour

The other day, a friend posted pictures of fritters called cireng and right after that, another friend asking if it tasted any good. I was amused by the fact that she had never tried it before, then I realised that I, too, first ate it only after I knew my wife. Further conversation they had only revealed that a food so common in West Java (including Tasikmalaya, my wife's hometown) was actually unheard of in Pontianak, at least during our formative years.

In order to explain this anomaly, let's look at the popular misconception about Indonesia. Based on my past encounters, I noticed that some foreigners seemed to have this idea that if an Indonesian wasn't a Chinese, then the person had to be a Malay. It never occurred to them that Indonesia would be so different than Malaysia! Unlike our neighbour, Indonesia is an archipelago inhabited by more than 300 ethnic groups!

Having lunch at the traditional eatery in West Java. 

In Java alone, there are Betawi people, Sudanese, Javanese, Madurese and who knows what else. Each one of them has their own cooking style. Some cook spicy food, some like it sweet. Some are known for their fried chicken or duck, others serve the best soup and stew in the world! You might have heard Indonesians using the phrase culinary tour. The truth is, they weren't just kidding about it. We are spoiled rotten by too many choices!

Now, it'll be impossible to cover all the cuisines from every nook and cranny of the archipelago, but I had tried some from as far as Medan in the west to Manado in the east. Admittedly, certain cuisines are memorable for a wrong reason. Manado food, served with a type of condiment called dabu-dabu, was so hot that I sweat like a leaky faucet. I also didn't even bother to try the notoriously spicy Mie Aceh. However, some are so mouth-watering that you'll feel hungry just by thought of it. Nasi Padang is, of course, the world-famous food from Indonesia, but we had talked about it before, so we'll skip it this round. Here's a list of personal favorites!

At Lapo, having soup, saksang, panggang anda a bottle of Badak. 

We shall begin with another myth buster. You see, Indonesia may have the biggest Muslims population in the world, but not all the ethnic groups are practicing Islam, therefore pork is included in their diet. As a case in point, Balinese is Hindu and their most iconic dish is babi guling or grilled suckling pig. That's one fine example, alright, but the one I want to talk about is the lesser-known Batak cuisines.

The Batak eateries are called Lapo. The one that I frequented when I was living in Jakarta was Lapo Ni Tondongta. The pork specialties were saksang (pork cooked with spices and its own blood) and panggang (Batak style roasted pork). The soup was also rich and tasty. Papaya leaves was a must, too. It was bitter, but perfect for the meal. All these, eaten together with the green chili sauce (it came with two types, the rough and the refined ones), made me believe that heaven was a place on earth. How I miss eating this again!

A bowl of yammie in Pontianak. 

Then of course noodles are a big deal in Indonesia cuisines, too. Noodles come with many names, such as yammie in Pontianak, yamien in Tasik or bakmie in Palembang (you'll hear the name Palembang quite often from here onwards). They are all prepared in a similar way: boiled and then stirred with the mixture of condiments such as salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar and MSG. There are variants, too, for instance, mie celor that came from Palembang. It is served in coconut milk and shrimp-based broth. Quite delicious. Oftentimes, you'll also find the cousins of noodles, namely kway teow, mee pok and locupan (translated as rat noodles due to its shape), being sold at the same stall.

I like noodles, but if I had only one chance and I got to choose, I'd go for kwetiau bun sapi. This beef kway teow had the moist quality that made it special. For your information, the stir-fried beef kway teow had three versions. The original is dry, bun version is slightly wet, then kwetiau siram has a thick sauce poured on top of it. The regular stir-fried is for beginners and the siram version is so gooey that some may not like it, but the bun one, not only it mixes well with the egg, it is so soft that it is very inviting.

A plate of kwetiau bun sapi

Next to be mentioned is the fried chicken and duck. I had this unfounded theory that Burger King didn't do well in Indonesia because it didn't sell fried chicken. On the other hand, McDonald's survived the competition against KFC because it had paket panas that came with fried chicken. This goes to show how much Indonesians love fried chicken (and duck, to certain extent, but people certainly care less about burgers). We have a lot of household names such as Ayam Goreng Suharti, Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek, Bebek Kaleyo, Bebek Sinjay, etc. Even ayam penyet (smashed chicken) from East Java is very popular in Singapore.

All these are good stuff, but my preference is still something from my hometown: Nasi Uduk Borobudur. Nasi uduk is rice cooked with coconut milk. Very tasty, but what makes it even more special is the crispy flour that comes with it (if my memory didn't fail me, Nasi Uduk Borobudur was the first that featured this back in the late 80s). The fried chicken thigh is fantastic, best eaten using hands. The meat is easily peeled off from the bone and before you eat it, dip it to the belacan sauce first. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Fried chicken from Nasi Uduk Borobudur. 

For those of you who like soups, I wasn't exaggerating when I said Indonesia has the best soup and stew. No, it's nothing like the elegant looking mushroom soup or clam chowder you see at the western restaurants. What we have, ranging from goat meat soup, various soto to beef rawon, are less fancy, but boy, what I wouldn't give for a bowl of oxtail soup right now! The one at Hotel Borobudur was legendary! As for soto, there are plenty, be it the plain ones or the ones with coconut milk. There are beef, chicken and even intestines soto. Some are served with rice, some have the rice in it! You can eat it with krupuk (deep fried crackers), but I think soto tastes better with emping (chips made of melinjo).

I like rawon, the black colored beef stew, simply because it's easy to find here in Singapore. As it was originally from East Java, some of the ayam penyet stalls at Lucky Plaza have rawon on their menu, too. It's good and the salted egg that comes as a side dish only makes it better. What I like best, however, is actually tongseng kambing, goat meat stew in curry-like soup. It's a bit too hot for me, but it tastes so good that the show must go on! Just like most of Indonesian cuisines, pouring the sweet soy sauce into the soup will make tongseng even more irresistible!

Goat meat tongseng.

By the way, you might have noticed that Indonesians often had rice to go along with anything else during meal time. Yes, there's this lingering feeling that we haven't eaten anything if we haven't eaten a plate of rice! Yet there are cuisines that don't come with it. I would consider this as snack time! There are plenty of food that fall into this category, starting with bakso (meatballs in plain soup), batagor (fried meatballs and tofu served in peanut sauce), siomay Bandung (steamed fish dumplings, bitter gourd, cabagges, potatoes and eggs, also served in peanut sauce), tekwan and pempek (both were fish-based delicacies from Palembang), etc. Some, like lontong sayur (another personal favorite) or satay, have compressed rice cake hidden underneath.

Worth mentioning among these snack-time meals is gado-gado. This Indonesian salad in peanut sauce (yes, peanut sauce rules!) comes with many aliases and slight differences in its ingredients. It's known as lotek, pecel, ketoprak and the one with raw veggies is called karedok. I was once specialised in eating ketoprak because at IDR 3K, it was the cheapest meal I could buy when I was staying in Jakarta, haha. Joke aside, I really like it because it has all the right ingredients for me (beansprouts, lontong, rice vermicelli, cucumber and fried tofu). In fact, I first knew it when I was in Pontianak, long before I moved to Jakarta. Good stuff, but hard to find here, so I had to make do with gado-gado.

There you go, the very high level of Indonesian cuisines. You have to bear in mind Indonesia has more stuff that I myself haven't even tried. If you are keen but not sure where to go, then your safest bet is Jakarta. You may not have much to see down there, but when it comes to food, Jakarta is the melting pot! You want it, you have it. So why are we still here? Let's a plan a culinary tour!

Gado-gado (and batagor at the back). 

Wisata Kuliner

Beberapa hari yang lalu, seorang teman mengunggah foto cireng dan seorang teman yang lain pun bertanya, apakah gorengan ini enak rasanya. Saya tertegun karena dia belum pernah mencoba cireng sebelumnya, namun lekas saya sadari pula bahwa saya pun baru mencicipinya setelah berkunjung ke rumah mertua saya. Percakapan antara dua teman ini akhirnya mengingatkan saya kembali bahwa makanan yang begitu lumrah di Jawa Barat (yang mencakup Tasikmalaya, kampung halaman istri saya) ternyata tidak pernah terdengar di Pontianak, minimal saat saya masih tinggal di sana. 

Untuk menjelaskan anomali ini, mari kita lihat dulu kesalahpahaman tentang Indonesia yang tampaknya cukup populer di mata orang asing. Saya perhatikan bahwa seringkali orang luar memiliki pendapat kalau orang Indonesia yang bukan Tionghoa pastilah orang Melayu. Tak pernah terlintas di benak mereka bahwa Indonesia berbeda dengan Malaysia. Tidak seperti halnya negeri tetangga kita, perlu diketahui bahwa bumi nusantara ini dihuni oleh lebih dari 300 suku!

Makan siang di Ayam Penyet Ria bersama teman-teman Singapura. 

Bahkan di Pulau Jawa sendiri pun ada orang Betawi, Sunda, Jawa, Madura dan masih banyak lagi. Setiap suku ini memiliki budaya dan resep masakan tersendiri. Ada yang pakar masakan pedas, ada pula yang sukanya manis-manis. Ada lagi yang jagonya ayam dan bebek goreng, ada juga yang menyajikan sup dan soto terenak di dunia. Kalau anda tinggal di Jakarta, anda mungkin pernah mendengar istilah wisata kuliner. Ini bukan sekedar lelucon, tetapi kebenaran yang hakiki! Bangsa Indonesia sungguh dimanjakan dengan beraneka ragam makanan yang lezat! 

Adalah tidak mungkin bagi kita untuk membahas masakan dari seluruh penjuru nusantara, tapi setidaknya saya sudah pernah mencoba masakan mulai dari Medan di belahan barat sampai Manado di sisi timur Indonesia. Perlu saya akui bahwa beberapa jenis masakan itu menjadi kenangan tersendiri karena pengalaman yang kurang baik, misalnya masakan Manado yang baru saya sebutkan tadi. Dulu saya tertarik untuk mencoba karena nama sambalnya yang lucu: dabu-dabu. Siapa sangka pedasnya sungguh luar biasa dan membuat jera? Kendati begitu, masakan yang membuat saya lapar hanya karena teringat dengan kesedapannya pun tak kalah banyaknya. Nasi Padang yang boleh dikatakan sebagai makanan paling terkenal dari Indonesia sudah tidak diragukan lagi kenikmatannya, namun karena sudah pernah kita kupas habis, kita tidak akan membahasnya lagi di sini. Kita akan lihat yang lain dan apa anda akan simak berikut ini adalah menu favorit saya!

Nasi Padang di mal Nagoya Hill, Batam. 

Mari mulai dengan klarifikasi terhadap mitos lainnya. Indonesia mungkin saja negara dengan populasi muslim terbesar di dunia, tapi Indonesia bukanlah negara muslim, tapi negara dengan dasar negara Pancasila. Masih banyak suku lain yang tidak menganut agama Islam dan mahir dalam mengolah daging babi. Sebagai contoh, orang Bali beragama Hindu dan masakannya yang terkenal adalah babi guling. Contoh lainnya, yang menjadi kesukaan saya, adalah masakan Batak.

Rumah makan Batak disebut Lapo. Sewaktu saya tinggal di Jakarta, saya sering makan di Lapo Ni Tondongta. Menu daging babi yang khas dari masakan Batak adalah saksang (babi yang dimasak dengan rempah dan darah babi) dan juga babi panggang Batak. Supnya pun gurih dan nikmat. Daun pepaya juga wajib dipesan. Pahit rasanya, tapi cocok dimakan bersama yang lain. Tidak ketinggalan pula cabe hijaunya, baik yang kasar maupun yang halus. Begitu lezatnya masakan Batak ini sampai membuat saya percaya bahwa sungguh surga ada di dunia!

Bakmie Aloi khas Palembang. 

Selain itu, yang namanya mie juga populer di dalam kuliner Indonesia. Namanya banyak dan mirip-mirip pula, misalnya yammie di Pontianak, yamien di Tasik dan bakmie di Palembang. Cara penyajiannya kurang-lebih sama: direbus dan kemudian dikocok bersama bumbunya yang terdiri dari garam, kecap asin, kecap ikan, cuka dan penyedap rasa. Beberapa daerah memiliki mie yang khas, misalnya mie celor asal Palembang yang dihidangkan dalam kuah santan dan kaldu udang. Saya sering memesan mie celor sewaktu bekerja di Kalbe dulu, jadi rasanya sudah teruji dan dijamin enak. Terkadang anda juga akan menemukan kwetiau, mipok dan locupan (mie tikus) dijual di toko bakmie yang sama. 

Saya suka mie, tapi jika saya hanya memiliki satu kesempatan dan harus memilih, biasanya saya cenderung memilih kwetiau bun sapi. Jenis yang satu ini basah-basah empuk. Sebagai informasi, kwetiau goreng sapi itu ada tiga macam. Yang pertama adalah goreng biasa, lalu ada bun yang agak basah, kemudian ada lagi kwetiau siram yang pada intinya adalah kwetiau yang disiram dengan kuah kental. Kwetiau goreng sapi adalah pilihan paling aman untuk pemula dan kwetiau siram mungkin terlalu ekstrim bagi beberapa orang karena kuahnya yang lengket. Menurut saya pribadi, kwetiau bun sapi adalah yang paling pas bercampur dengan telur. Lembut dan mengundang!

Paket Panas McDonald's. 

Yang perlu dibahas berikutnya adalah ayam dan bebek goreng. Saya memiliki teori yang mungkin saja keliru tentang kenapa Burger King dulu kalah bersaing sementara McDonald's yang menjual Paket Panas bisa beradu dengan KFC. Terlepas dari benar atau tidaknya teori ini, saya harap anda jadi mengerti betapa cintanya orang Indonesia terhadap ayam goreng (dan juga bebek goreng, namun tidak banyak yang peduli dengan burger). Nama-nama besar yang sering kita dengar adalah Ayam Goreng Suharti, Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek, Bebek Kaleyo, Bebek Sinjay dan lain-lain. Bahkan ayam penyet dari Jawa Timur pun sangat terkenal di Singapura. 

Semua yang baru saja saya sebutkan tentu tidak diragukan lagi kenikmatannya, tapi saya lebih menyukai menu yang berasal dari kampung halaman saya: Nasi Uduk Borobudur. Nasi uduknya mantap, namun yang lebih istimewa lagi adalah tepung gorengnya yang garing (seingat saya, tepung goreng ini pertama kali diperkenalkan oleh Nasi Uduk Borobudur di akhir tahun 80an). Ayam gorengnya dashyat, paling pas dimakan dengan tangan dan dicelupkan ke sambal belacan dulu sebelum disantap.

Sup buntut Hotel Borobudur. 

Bagi mereka yang menyukai sup, saya tidak sedang melebih-lebihkan ketika berkata bahwa sup Indonesia adalah yang terlezat di dunia. Tampilannya boleh saja tidak elegan seperti sup jamur atau sup kerang di restoran masakan bule, tapi nikmatnya sup buntut, soto dan rawon bisa menggugah panca indra. Sup buntut Hotel Borobudur sudah terkenal dari sejak dulu kala. Akan halnya soto, ada yang bening dan ada pula yang bersantan. Dagingnya bisa dari ayam, sapi bahkan jerohan. Ada yang disajikan terpisah dengan nasi, ada pula yang sudah langsung beserta nasi di dalam mangkok soto. Kadang disantap bersama kerupuk atau bisa juga dengan emping melinjo. 

Saya menyukai rawon sapi karena bisa ditemukan di Singapura. Rawon berasal dari Jawa Timur, jadi kedai yang menjual ayam penyet biasanya juga memiliki rawon di menunya. Rasanya sedap dan telur asin yang menjadi pelengkap membuat rawon kian mantap. Yang benar-benar saya gemari sebenarnya adalah tongseng kambing. Daging kambing yang disajikan dalam sejenis kuah kari ini terasa agak pedas bagi saya, tapi tetap saya santap karena terlalu menggiurkan. Sama seperti masakan Indonesia lainnya, tambahkan kecap manis untuk menambah selera!

Pempek kapal selam. 

Oh ya, anda mungkin memperhatikan bahwa rata-rata orang Indonesia jarang makan tanpa nasi. Bagi saya sendiri, sepertinya ada yang kurang kalau belum makan nasi. Meskipun demikian, ada juga masakan yang dihidangkan tanpa nasi. Makanan seperti ini saya kategorikan sebagai jajanan. Ada banyak yang masuk dalam kelompok ini, misalnya bakso, batagor, siomay Bandung, tekwan, pempek dan lain sebagainya. Beberapa di antaranya, seperti lontong sayur (yang juga makanan favorit saya) dan sate, menyertakan nasi dalam bentuk ketupat atau lontong. 

Yang juga layak disebutkan dari begitu banyak jajanan adalah gado-gado. Selada Indonesia yang disiram dengan bumbu kacang ini memiliki banyak alias yang disertai sedikit perbedaan dalam bahan-bahan makanannya. Ada yang disebut lotek, pecel, ketoprak dan mentah bahannya itu namanya karedok. Saya sendiri adalah pecandu ketoprak karena dengan harga 3.000 rupiah, ketoprak adalah makanan paling murah yang bisa saya beli saat tinggal di Jakarta, haha. Selain harga, alasan yang lain adalah karena ketoprak memang enak dan cocok untuk saya (bahannya adalah kecambah, lontong, bihun, timun dan tahu goreng). Saya sudah membeli ketoprak dari sejak di Pontianak karena dijual di samping jalan menuju sekolah Petrus. Namun ketoprak susah ditemukan di sini, jadi saya harus berpuas diri dengan gado-gado. 

Jadi demikianlah garis besar tentang masakan Indonesia. Banyak yang masih belum pernah saya coba. Jika anda berminat tapi tidak tahu mesti ke mana, Jakarta adalah pilihan yang bijak. Walau tidak banyak tempat wisata di Jakarta, kalau soal makanan, Jakarta adalah pusatnya karena banyak orang dari seluruh nusantara yang mengadu nasib di ibukota. Apa yang anda mau pasti bisa dijumpai di sana. Kalau begitu, tunggu apa lagi? Mari kita berwisata kuliner!

Lontong sayur. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Appreciate What You Have

Greeting from Ah Bong or Parno Bong again. After a long while, finally I got myself to write a blog.  Well, life as Parno Bong is not the same with other kids in my younger years. When I was young, I had a neighbourhood friend named Teddy Ponti Sari. As for why he was called Ponti Sari, it's because his father was the owner of a department store called Ponti Sari. It's already closed for good due to certain factors that I don't know, but I do know his father was really angry with me when we were playing inside his big house.

I was kind of tired after playing and I tried to relax by leaning with my dirty feet on the wall. Suddenly he was mad at me because the wall was dirty. I was shocked by the warning, hahaha.

Then when I was in secondary school, I met many friends. Played with a lot with them and didn't care about the future while other were already thinking of saving money bit by bit. But me, I was enjoying the time of my life, playing, going to gaming arcade, read comics everyday until I got my diploma. I was poor, but I enjoyed it because I made a lasting friendship for my whole life for sure.

You know, for some other kids around my age, they have to know how to earn money. For me, it's a different thing. I did nothing. Just played the role of a son that went to school, studied hard and enrolled to favorite college. That was my parents' dream, but I failed to make it happen. It was awful. Bad behaviour. 

Then both my father and mother suddenly opened shops to make a living. As the eldest son, I directly helped both of them to do business. My Mum sold salted fish while my father sold second-hand stuff. I barely adjusted myself in this kind of life, especially after so much leisure time I had, but after some time I got used to it. In the morning, I helped my Mum to open the shop and worked as the shopkeeper. I also worked as a driver sending goods from my father shop. I remember the time when I went to school. A girl told me, "you really smell like salted fish." Hahaha, upon hearing that, I was silent and blushing.

And I carried on doing the job, because this was how we could be staying alive, hahaha. Then until the end of high school I studied hard to pass the final exams. Some of my friends had to work and study in college at the same time. I was influenced by them, so I went to college, too. Frankly speaking, I shouldn't have studied in college if I knew my parents wouldn't come to my graduation, haha. Only a friend that I knew came, hahaha. 

My mindset at time was just to finish college and I did it. I wrote my paper at my Mum's salted fish shop. I bought a typewriter to do the paper and the shop owner came to me, asking if I wanted to open an office here. Well, that was embarrassing. 

I am 40  years old this year, married with two children now. I'm happy and I never regret what I'd done after all these years, even though I'm just an old school guy. I once wanted a decent work, lived my life to the fullest, got married, bought a house, excelled in what I'm passionate at, some thing that made me proud to be who I am, you know. But, huff, it was not an easy task. Things never turned out that way for me, Parno Bong, while others just could just work towards their dreams until they reached them. 

Yeah, let's face it. When I was in my elementary, secondary and high schools, I've experienced an enourmous adventure. The friends that I went through this life with, we had a great time. However, I might have playing too much and was not focus on my education. Could have saved more money, too...

Monday, May 13, 2019


The good thing with chat group is, you'll always see some innocent remarks that get you thinking. Recently, we had a friend who stood for election as a legislative candidate and after an apparent loss, he boasted that he would sell two of his store houses to fund his protest movement. Upon reading this, another friend made a comment about how rich the sore loser was while he himself never had IDR 20 million even at the age of 40.

Now, before I proceed further, let's be open-minded. It's a sensitive subject and I'm not doing any comparison here. I merely found that I could relate with the rather sad remark made by a friend of mine and it reminded me that I had a story of a similar tone, too. I remember telling my wife I was always amazed by the fact that the empty house we bought is filled up with many things today. I guess it happened gradually, just like how my life is as I grow older.

I was poor, not to mention underweight, when a teenager was supposed to be the coolest at the age 17 or 18. I was embarrassed to ride my bike when I entered college, because everyone else was riding a motorbike or driving a car. When I had to do that, I remember clearly that I'd be the earliest one to reach the campus and when the class ended, I'd wait until other students went home, then I'd quietly push my bike out from the parking lot. It was not easy to be so poor at such a young age, because you'd be worried about what other people would say.

The only saving grace was those people I called friends. They loved me the way I was, not due to what I had because frankly speaking, I had nothing. Looking back, the genuine friendship I had made me a decent and happy human being in the material world. Yes, I was embarrassed at times of what I didn't have, but at the same time, I wasn't jealous of what my friends had, too. I had no idea how the feelings so contrast could co-exist, but somehow, someway I managed.

When I graduated from college and started working at Kalbe Farma, I had a slightly older colleague who sat literally next to me. Both of us had a dream that we'd be rich one day, but our approach towards the same goal couldn't be more different. He was the type of person with a financial plan whereas I, on the other hand, had only a vague idea and little interest on how to achieve that. At that time, I only cared about writing and having a good laugh!

As we were quite close then, he always reminded me that I should have had a fixed deposit as the interest was much higher than a savings account. That was very nice of him, but as much as I tried to listen, I simply couldn't bring myself to do what he suggested. Needless to say, I also never saw IDR 20 million during my time in Jakarta. I started with IDR 1.5 million in late 2002 and my last drawn salary was IDR 2.8 million in early 2006, but till the day I left Jakarta, the amount of money in my savings account was never higher than IDR six million.

If not for the royalties I earned from two books that I published in 2005, I wouldn't be able to save up USD 1,400 that I'd eventually use to start anew in Singapore. Moving to Singapore turned out to be a life-changing decision and my fortune got better since then. However, in all truthfulness, I don't think I was ever getting more sophisticated. Yes, the vastly improved financial situation had very much to do with the right timing I was at, the right people I met, the hard work I did, but it was also due to the fact that I took the shortcut by working in the country with a currency that is so much stronger than IDR. Those people that earned rupiah and travelled abroad with their family, let's say for a holiday in Japan, they are the real heroes out there!

But that's beside the point, though. If my personal experience so far ever taught me anything, then it had to be these three following points. The first and most obvious lesson was something that we already knew: it's good to have money. Yes, having money is good because it enables us to do many things. Let's face it, without money, you can kiss your dreams goodbye.

Secondly, while money can do wonders, it is not exactly the source of happiness. Based on what I went through, I learnt that happiness comes from within. In a simplest example, my lifestyle might have changed along the way (and for the better, I hope), but the sense of humour that defines who I am, it comes from my heart. If you slow down and give it a thought, you don't just buy all this from a shop just because you are richer these days. It's not for sale, anyway. Another thing also worth mentioning is, good friends don't just appear because of money. As illogical as it sounds, they are actually there for you when you're down and out.

Lastly, the importance of the love we invest in what we're doing. It does make a difference! If I looked at what I had done for the past twenty years, the moral of the story is, when you are passionate about something good, people tend to notice and changes do happen. Sometimes the result comes with monetary gain and other nice surprises, so be passionate and don't stop believing. At the very least, you are doing things that you like and you can sleep peacefully at night. 

Back to that remark of IDR 20 million, it was a wake up call that some people were apparently not so fortunate. In all honesty, just like how puzzled I was when I looked at our house now, I also don't really know how I got this far as I seemingly did the same thing that many of us did. However, throughout the journey, I learnt that being rich is relative. The question now is: am I now the rich man that the younger me used to dream about? No, the truth is I never have much, but thank God I always have enough...

"Money is a great servant but a bad master."
~Francis Bacon~


Satu hal yang menarik dari chat group WhatsApp adalah munculnya komentar polos yang membuat kita tergelitik untuk berpikir. Baru-baru ini, ada seorang teman yang menjadi caleg. Begitu ada indikasi gagal dalam perolehan suara yang cukup, teman yang satu ini berkata bahwa dia akan menjual dua rukonya untuk menggalang dukungan massa. Setelah membaca sesumbar ini, seorang teman lain berkomentar tentang betapa kayanya si caleg sementara dia sendiri bahkan tidak memiliki 20 juta rupiah meskipun sudah berumur 40 tahun. 

Oh ya, sebelum saya bercerita lebih lanjut, saya meminta pembaca untuk berpikiran terbuka. Uang adalah topik yang sensitif dan saya tidak bermaksud membuat perbandingan apa pun. Saya hanya merasa bahwa topik ini mengingatkan saya tentang cerita serupa yang pernah saya alami. Beberapa waktu yang lalu, saya juga berujar pada istri saya bahwa saya sangat takjub dengan keberadaan barang-barang yang memenuhi rumah yang dulunya kosong. Mungkin semua ini terjadi secara perlahan, sedikit demi sedikit, seperti halnya hidup saya seiring dengan bertambahnya umur. 

Saya miskin dan kurus pula di saat seorang remaja seharusnya gagah dan memikat di usia ke-17. Memasuki jenjang kuliah, saya sangat malu bersepeda, sebab semua orang memiliki motor atau mobil. Kalau saya harus mengengkol sepeda ke kampus, biasanya saya akan berangkat lebih awal dan pulang paling akhir. Saya akan menunggu sampai semua bubar, barulah saya mendorong sepeda saya keluar dari tempat parkir. Tidak mudah menjadi orang susah di usia tersebut, sebab saya khawatir tentang apa yang akan orang lain katakan tentang saya. 

Satu-satunya hal yang menjadi pelipur lara adalah mereka yang menjadi teman-teman saya. Mereka menjadi karib bukan karena apa yang saya miliki, tetapi karena mereka menerima saya apa adanya. Jika saya lihat kembali, persahabatan yang tulus inilah yang membuat saya menjadi pribadi yang gembira dan sederhana. Ya, ada kalanya saya rendah diri karena saya tidak memiliki apa-apa, namun di saat yang sama, saya tidak iri dengan apa yang mereka miliki. Saya tidak tahu bagaimana caranya dua perasaan yang begitu kontras ini bisa muncul berdampingan, tapi syukurlah saya bisa melewati masa-masa ini dengan baik. 

Ketika saya lulus kuliah dan bekerja di Kalbe Farma, di sebelah kanan saya duduk seorang kolega yang berumur dua tahun lebih tua. Kita berdua memiliki impian bahwa suatu hari kelak kita akan sukses, tapi cara kita mencapai impian itu sungguh bertolak belakang. Rekan kerja saya ini adalah orang yang memiliki rencana finansial yang matang, sedangkan saya tak jelas arahnya dan tidak pula berpikir jauh. Pada saat itu, saya hanya suka menulis dan juga hal-hal yang lucu.

Saya dan kolega yang duduk di sebelah kanan saya di Kalbe Farma. 

Berhubung kita berteman cukup dekat, dia selalu menasehati saya untuk menyimpan uang dalam bentuk deposito karena bunganya lebih tinggi dari tabungan biasa. Saya menghargai kebaikannya dan saya pun coba mendengar, tapi saya tidak pernah berhasil menjalankan sarannya. Alhasil, sepanjang karir saya di Jakarta, saya tidak pernah memiliki uang 20 juta rupiah. Saya mulai dengan gaji 1,5 juta dan ketika saya berhenti, gaji saya adalah 2,8 juta, namun dari awal hingga hari terakhir saya di Jakarta, nominal tabungan saya tidak pernah lebih tinggi dari enam juta rupiah. 

Jika bukan karena royalti dari dua buku yang saya terbitkan di tahun 2005, saya tidak akan bisa menabung sebanyak USD 1.400. Tabungan inilah yang saya pergunakan saat saya memulai lagi dari awal di Singapura. Langkah saya untuk pindah ke Singapura akhirnya terbukti tepat dan sisi finansial saya pun membaik sejak saat itu. Peningkatan yang signifikan terjadi karena saya datang pada saat yang tepat, bertemu dengan orang yang tepat dan saya juga bekerja sebaik mungkin. Di sisi lain, perlu saya akui juga bahwa saya sebenarnya mengambil jalan pintas dengan pindah ke negara yang mata uangnya jauh lebih kuat dari rupiah. Secara singkat, itulah yang saya lalui. Kalau mau bicara soal kehebatan, saya cenderung lebih mengagumi mereka yang mencari nafkah dalam rupiah dan mampu berlibur bersama keluarga ke luar negeri, misalnya ke Jepang. Di mata saya, mereka adalah pahlawan sesungguhnya! 

Itu sedikit selingan dan pendapat dari saya. Kembali ke cerita, jika pengalaman pribadi saya mengajarkan sesuatu pada saya, maka itu adalah tiga hal berikut ini. Yang pertama dan paling jelas bagi semua orang adalah: mempunyai uang itu sesuatu yang bagus. Ya, uang memungkinkan kita untuk mengerjakan banyak hal. Kalau tidak ada uang, tentunya tidak gampang untuk mewujudkan apa yang kita inginkan.

Hal kedua adalah, meski uang bisa melakukan banyak hal, uang bukanlah sumber kebahagiaan. Berdasarkan apa yang saya lalui, kebahagiaan itu datang dari dalam hati. Contoh yang sederhana adalah, meski gaya hidup saya berubah (menjadi semakin baik, saya harap) karena adanya uang, selera humor yang membuat saya gampang tertawa sudah tertanam dari sejak dulu. Hal-hal seperti ini tidak bisa kita beli toko hanya karena kita memiliki lebih banyak uang dibandingkan dulu. Hal lain yang layak untuk disebutkan adalah, teman-teman baik datang bukan karena uang. Kendati kedengarannya tidak logis, teman-teman yang tulus ini tetap hadir di saat anda susah. Mencengangkan, bukan?

Terakhir, jangan pernah anggap remeh ketulusan dalam bekerja. Hal ini sungguh bisa membuat perbedaan. Bila saya melihat kembali apa yang saya kerjakan selama 20 tahun terakhir, moral dari cerita saya adalah, ketika anda mengerjakan sesuatu dengan baik karena anda menyukai pekerjaan tersebut, orang lain mungkin akan memperhatikan secara diam-diam dan perubahan pun terjadi. Terkadang hasilnya datang dalam bentuk uang atau bahkan kejutan lainnya. Jadi janganlah perhitungan dalam bekerja dan jangan pernah berhenti percaya bahwa anda sedang membuat perubahan. Dengan demikian, setidaknya anda menikmati pekerjaan anda dan tidur pun terasa tenang karena anda sudah memberikan yang terbaik. 

Kembali ke komentar teman saya tentang nominal 20 juta di atas, itu adalah sesuatu yang mengingatkan saya kembali bahwa tidak semua orang sama peruntungannya. Seperti halnya ketika saya merasa bingung dengan rumah yang kian lama kian dipenuhi barang, dengan jujur saya katakan bahwa saya tidak tahu persis bagaimana saya mencapai hari ini, sebab saya sepertinya melakukan hal-hal yang juga bisa dilakukan oleh orang lain. Akan tetapi, dari proses yang saya lalui, saya belajar bahwa kekayaan adalah sesuatu yang relatif. Pertanyaannya adalah: apakah saya kaya dan sukses sekarang, seperti apa yang saya impikan dulu sewaktu mulai berkarir di Jakarta? Tidak, saya tidak kaya, tapi saya bersyukur pada Tuhan bahwa saya berkecukupan... 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Short Getaway

For once I'd like to start my story with a disclaimer: what you are going to read is likely to be biased, mostly due to the fact that I'm an Indonesian, haha. So here's the thing: when you have lived in Singapore for a while, sooner or later you'll realise that when you get bored, you actually have two destinations that you can go to for a day trip. Yeah, it's either Johor Bahru or Batam. The question now is, which one is a better choice?

First of all, let's see how to travel to each destination. Johor Bahru is reachable by land transportation, so you can either take a private car, the public buses or a 5-minute train. My personal recommendation is the train from Woodlands. The immigration is much shorter. The other two options have horrible queues, especially during public holidays. When it comes to Batam, you have to take a ferry. The journey is roughly one hour and it can be unpleasant when the sea gets rough! Cost-wise, the return tickets to Batam is around SGD 50 per person. The public buses and train to Johor Bahru will only cost you less than SGD 10.

That trip to Johor I had with church friends many years ago.
Photo by Andri Yau.

Up until here, it seems like Johor Bahru is a more attractive destination, eh? Well, yes and no. It'll be fun if you are a first-time visitor, when everything is a new experience to you. The entry point via Woodlands, which is often used by those who don't drive, brings you directly to JB Sentral, an integrated transport hub, and City Square shopping centre. As someone who came from a small town called Pontianak, I'd say that part of Johor Bahru made a good first impression. You can spend half a day here for your first taste of West Malaysia. The other entry point is officially known as Tuas Second Link. If you are driving to Legoland or taking a coach to Malacca or Kuala Lumpur, then I reckon you'll pass by this route. Not much to see here, so it'll be less memorable.

Now, based on the description above, you either shop, eat or go to the amusement park when you do a day trip to Johor. Given the choice, I won't do the latter one. When it comes to shopping, I don't mind to tag along, but I'm not exactly a big fan, too. Having said that, the one thing left to do is eating. The food there isn't bad, but if I have to go through a long queue at the immigration just for that, I don't think it's worth the effort. Furthermore, the moment I step out from Singapore border and set foot in Malaysia, there is this lingering feeling that the place is not really safe, haha.

Yani, Linda and Leny at Sanrio Hello Kitty Town.

Batam, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Johor. To me, going to Batam was like homecoming. The excitement was clearly in the air. Chaotic though it was, it felt great to be home again. My country, Indonesia the beautiful. Oftentimes, if I arrived at Batam Centre, I would go to Pempek Kolekta at Mega Mall and began my day there with my favorite food, lontong. After that I might go to Nagoya Hill Mall (or BCS Mall if I need to visit Gramedia book store). I could spend some time watching a movie with Indonesian subtitles, enjoy a cup of kopi susu (unfiltered black coffee with sweetened condensed milk) at the local café or buy Indomie, sweet soy sauce and other goods at the hypermarket. Then before I returned to Singapore, I'd normally go for a plate of nasi Padang. Oh, the mouth-watering kikil (tendon), green chili, daun singkong (cassava leaves) and paru (fried lung). Life was so good indeed! Last but not least, when time permitted, buying a box of Sari Eco's martabak manis sold in front of Nagoya Hill complex would make me a hero for my wife!

So there you go, I think it's pretty obvious that Batam is a better destination for the short getaway. Look, I spent more words describing Johor Bahru and only one paragraph was dedicated to Batam. You can't say that I'm not fair, but you'll have to pardon me if all the love and joy in writing were reserved only for Batam! It's skewed, alright, but check the disclaimer above. You can't sue me, haha!

Lontong. A must for you to try!

Liburan Singkat Satu Hari

Untuk sekali ini, saya ingin memulai cerita dengan sebuah pemberitahuan: apa yang akan anda baca berikut ini pastilah terasa bias karena saya adalah orang Indonesia, haha. Jadi ceritanya begini: kalau anda sudah tinggal di Singapura untuk beberapa saat lamanya, lambat-laun anda akan menyadari bahwa di kala bosan, anda sebenarnya memiliki dua tujuan untuk berlibur singkat satu hari: Johor atau Batam. Pertanyaannya adalah, pilihan mana yang lebih menarik?

Pertama-tama, mari lihat beberapa sarana transportasi untuk mengunjungi masing-masing tempat yang sudah disebutkan tadi. Johor Bahru terhubung oleh jalan darat, jadi anda bisa menggunakan kendaraan pribadi atau sewaan, naik bis umum atau naik kereta yang hanya berdurasi lima menit. Saran saya adalah naik kereta dari Woodlands karena antrian imigrasinya jauh lebih pendek. Dua pilihan yang lain sangat parah antriannya, terutama pada saat liburan. Akan halnya Batam, anda harus menyeberang laut dengan feri. Perjalanan ke sana memakan waktu satu jam dan jika laut sedang bergelora, anda mungkin akan merasa mabuk. Dari segi harga, tiket pergi-pulang ke Batam berkisar SGD 50 per orang, sedangkan bis atau kereta ke Johor hanya sekitar SGD 10 atau bahkan lebih murah lagi.

Wawa naik ke kereta ke Johor Bahru.

Sampai di sini, rasanya Johor Bahru lebih menarik, ya? Hmm, antara ya dan tidak, sebenarnya. Jika anda ke sana untuk pertama kalinya, maka jawabannya mungkin iya. Woodlands, perbatasan yang sering dilalui oleh mereka yang tidak mengemudi, terrhubung dengan stasiun terpadu JB Sentral dan mal City Square. Sebagai orang yang datang dari kota kecil bernama Pontianak, kesan pertama saya adalah Johor Bahru terasa ramai dan seru. Setengah hari bisa berlalu hanya dengan menjelajahi kawasan ini. Perbatasaan kedua, yang lebih terkenal dengan nama Tuas Second Link, hanya akan dilalui bila anda bepergian ke Legoland atau menaiki bis ke Melaka atau Kuala Lumpur. Tidak banyak yang bisa dilihat di sini, jadi kurang berkesan. 

Nah, berdasarkan deskripsi di atas, anda mungkin akan berbelanja, makan atau ke taman bermain di kala anda berlibur singkat satu hari ke Johor. Kalau saya bisa memilih, saya tidak pergi ke Legoland karena saya memang kurang menyukai taman bermain seperti itu. Perihal belanja, saya tidak keberatan untuk turut serta, namun terus-terang saya bukan tipe yang gemar melihat-lihat saja tanpa tujuan jelas hendak membeli apa. Jadi satu-satunya pilihan yang tersisa bagi saya adalah makan. Masakan Malaysia lumayan enak, namun bila harus antri lama di imigrasi hanya demi makanan, saya cenderung tidak bersedia. Lagipula, begitu anda melangkah ke luar Singapura dan menjejakkan kaki di Malaysia, ada rasa tidak aman di hati, haha.

Bersama Surianto, Linda, Fendy dan Sudarpo di Johor. 

Ini jelas bertolak-belakang dengan Batam. Bagi saya pribadi, Batam itu tak ubahnya seperti pulang ke negeri sendiri. Ada rasa riang di hati. Ya, Batam memang semrawut, tapi senang rasanya bisa berada di Indonesia lagi. Seringkali, ketika saya tiba di Batam Centre, saya akan mampir dulu ke Pempek Kolekta di Mega Mall dan memulai petualangan saya dengan lontong, makanan favorit saya. Setelah itu, saya mungkin pergi ke Nagoya Hill Mall (atau BCS Mall bila saya ingin mengunjungi toko buku Gramedia). Saya kadang menonton film di sana, menikmati secangkir kopi susu khas Indonesia atau berbelanja kebutuhan dapur seperti Indomie, kecap manis dan lain-lain. Sebelum kembali ke Singapura, biasanya saya akan ke rumah makan Padang untuk menyantap kikil, cabe hijau, daun singkong dan paru. Hidup langsung terasa nikmat! Terakhir, kalau waktu memungkinkan, saya akan membawa pulang martabak manis Sari Eco yang dijual di depan kompleks Nagoya Hill, oleh-oleh yang membuat saya menjadi pahlawan di mata istri saya. 

Jadi rasanya bisa disimpulkan kalau Batam adalah pilihan yang lebih menarik untuk liburan singkat satu hari. Jika anda perhatikan dengan seksama, saya jelas-jelas menghabiskan lebih banyak kata-kata untuk menggambarkan Johor dan hanya satu paragraf yang ditulis khusus untuk Batam. Dengan demikian, anda tidak bisa menuduh kalau saya tidak adil, tapi anda harus bisa memaklumi kalau rasa cinta dan suka-cita hanya dipersembahkan untuk Batam. Bias? Ya, tapi saya sudah deklarasikan di awal cerita, jadi anda tidak boleh protes, haha!

Makan siang di Batam.
Foto oleh Franky.